Sunday, September 12, 2010

U.S. Civilian Presence In Iraq Under Operation New Dawn

President Obama’s August 31, 2010 speech announcing the end of combat operations in Iraq marked the beginning of Operation New Dawn. The goal of this mission is to transfer control of Iraqi relations from the American military to the State Department. 

As part of this process, U.S. civilians will take the lead in Iraq. Currently, twelve agencies are working in the country.

  • The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is helping Iraqis create a competitive and modern farming sector through advisors out in the field, and with the Ministries of Agriculture, Planning, Water Resources, and Higher Education. The USDA is also trying to increase agricultural trade with Iraq.
  • The Department of Commerce is promoting economic ties through the U.S.-Iraq Business Dialogue and the Commercial Law Development Program. Commerce is also trying to get U.S. companies to invest in Iraq.
  • The Department of State is going to take over the training of the Iraqi police, and is working with the Iraqi National Museum to protect the country’s antiquities.
  • The Department of Treasury is assisting Baghdad with its relations with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, helping to reduce Iraq’s debt, and plan and execute its budget.
  • The Department of Education has created the largest Fullbright Foreign Student Program in the Middle East in Iraq so that Iraqis can study in the United States.
  • The Department of Energy is cooperating with the Ministry of Electricity to train its bureaucrats to regulate the industry and improve services.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services is training Iraq’s health professionals.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is assisting Iraq to control its borders.
  • The Department of Interior is working with the Oil Ministry on its tenders, evaluation of its resources, operations, technology, and management.
  • The Department of Justice is helping Iraq’s judges and rule of law.
  • The Department of Transportation is trying to get Baghdad to modernize and secure its air and sea ports, and improve its roads and highways.
  • The United States Agency of International Development (USAID) is supporting microfinancing for young entrepreneurs, job programs, aid to displaced, working with Iraqi banks to improve their operations, and is attempting to diversify Iraq’s economy.

At the same time the American rebuilding effort is going to be cut back. Currently there are 18 Provincial Reconstruction Teams operating in Iraq. They will be reduced to five, and renamed Enduring Presence Posts. They will eventually work out of two consulates in Irbil and Basra, plus offices in Ninewa, Tamim, and Diyala. Those last three will also help with Kurdish-Arab relations, and monitor developments in the disputed territories that run through those three provinces.

The U.S. presence in Iraq is changing. Despite the Obama administration’s claim that the withdrawal of American troops will not diminish the relationship between the two countries, those left working in Iraq will not have the same influence. U.S. agencies will continue to partner with their Iraqi counterparts, there will be advisers in Baghdad’s ministries, and training of the Iraqi forces and development aid will not stop, but there’s no way those civilians can match over 100,000 soldiers in the country. The White House seems fine with this transition, even though there are plenty who question whether this is enough of a commitment to a country like Iraq that has so many problems to overcome. The question is whether the Iraqis will be able to handle their business as the U.S. role declines, because ultimately it’s their country, and they have to determine their own future.

SOURCES

Cordesman, Anthony, “Iraq: The Realities of US ‘Withdrawal’ of Combat Forces and the Challenges of Strategic Partnership,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 8/30/10
- “Update On US Withdrawal From Iraq,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 9/2/10

Gordon, Michael and Bumiller, Elisabeth, “In Baghdad, U.S. Officials Take Note of Milestone,” New York Times, 9/1/10

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/10
- “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/10

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